Weighing the options
The Wolves own the first, 31st and 36th picks in the NBA draft. President of basketball operations/coach Flip Saunders promises his team won’t select and keep two players with both of those second-round picks.
Here are assets the Wolves have to make a deal on draft night:
• Ricky Rubio: Saunders insists he’s not trading a player he signed last fall to a four-year, $55 million contract that begins this coming season. But…Rubio is the one player with whom Saunders could swing a significant trade, potentially for another lottery pick in the draft or a proven player. But it’d take just the right team. (Sacramento, or Dallas or Houston perhaps?)
•Those 31st and 36th picks: Saunders could package both to get another first-round pick, but it’s unlikely that he could get high enough — above Houston at No. 18 — for the chance to select Apple Valley’s Tyus Jones.
• European prospect Nemanja Bjelica: Drafted by David Kahn in 2010’s second round, this season’s Euroleague MVP has a guard’s skills in a power forward’s body. At age 27, he’s ready to play for the Wolves right now but also could be included to sweeten a trade for the right team — Dallas maybe, with the 21st pick — that likes his offensive skills and is willing to overlook his defensive liabilities.
• Veterans Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic: Saunders insists the team needs Martin’s shooting and leadership, but playoff teams will call. Pekovic’s injury history and contract (three years, nearly $36 million left) make him practically untradeable.